WASHINGTON — On June 20, communities from around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations as an international day to acknowledge the strength and courage of people forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution.
Yet, the commemoration of World Refugee Day comes at a record low for refugee resettlement.
Despite the long tradition of welcoming refugees in the United States, largely supported by faith-based organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, the number of refugees resettled in the United States was at its the lowest in 2020 since the founding of the resettlement program in 1980.
At the same time, the past year marks a record high number of people forcibly displaced around the world.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are currently 26 million refugees who have been forcibly displaced due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
In response to the current climate for refugees, World Refugee Day interfaith prayer services were organized across the United States by MRS, in collaboration with the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors and the Princeton University Religion and Resettlement Project, to pray publicly for the well-being of refugees in the United States, across religious and political lines.
According to Todd Scribner of MRS, one of the principal organizers of the event, part of the purpose of these nationally coordinated services was to pray with and for refugees as a way to rebuild relationships with these communities, and highlight “the religious traditions out of which many of these communities have emerged and embraced.”